We all know that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This may be true for all things except, well, actual books. A strong cover will catch the eye, suggest the genre, set the mood for the story—and compel a reader take the next step: click on the link or turn the book over to find out more! That’s where I come in.
Often when I tell people that I write cover copy, they are surprised to learn authors don’t write the blurbs for their own stories. Then they usually ask how long it takes me to read all those books. And I must confess: I don’t. Oh sure, I’d love to! Anyone in publishing who doesn’t like to read is clearly in the wrong line of work. But when there is a deadline to be met (and isn’t there always?) I rely on the synopsis.
I know, I know: many (most?) authors hate writing them! But a good synopsis won’t just get your book noticed by an editor, it can also help a copywriter craft a killer blurb that will entice readers to buy your book. While I do read some or all of a manuscript if necessary, it can be too time consuming when I’m working on several books at once (especially when I get sucked into your story and am “forced” to keep reading when I should be writing!)
So what do I look for in a synopsis? The basics: your name/pseudonym, the title of the book (if known), the series name (if it’s part of one), the genre. Often this information is missing, probably because it appears in the query letter or manuscript, which I may not have. I usually check out the copy for your other books, and try to reflect the same tone where appropriate, especially when the books are connected. So having this basic information in the synopsis itself is helpful. Yes, I can get it from my Carina contacts, but if I’m writing copy at 10 pm on a Saturday night (such is the glamorous life of a freelancer!), I’m working with more than one synopsis with no title or author name, and the copy is due Monday…
Along that same line, it’s also helpful to know the basic facts about the hero and heroine: full names, occupations or titles, as well as where (and when, in the case of historicals) the story takes place.
If you have a tagline, “elevator pitch” or a really brief description of your story, please feel free to include it (I may even end up using some of it in the final blurb.) Not to worry, I’m not suggesting you need to write your own copy. But if you can’t sum up your story in a few lines, it’s probably going to be difficult for me to as well.
Perhaps most important of all, spell out the conflict and motivation for both hero and heroine–what exactly is keeping them apart? How are they going to resolve it? If your synopsis only reveals what makes the heroine tick, it can be difficult for me to factor the hero into the copy. You might be surprised how often I read a synopsis that says next to nothing about the hero except that he’s “sexy as sin”, even when his point of view is strong within the book itself.
If your story is erotic, I need to know so I can turn up the heat. More than once I’ve written copy that was sweet rather than spicy because there was no indication in the synopsis that there were any sex scenes at all, never mind explicit ones! You don’t have to go into all the juicy details—just include “erotic” in the genre, and I’ll take it from there.
Lastly, if the story is told in first person, it would be great if this was indicated in the synopsis. Sometimes I struggle to get just the right tone in a piece of copy, only to have it all fall into place when I realize the book is in first person. The synopsis doesn’t have to be written in first person, just as long as you mention the book itself is. (I’ll still often write the copy in both first and third person to see which version works best.)
So you tell me, do you judge a book by its cover (copy)?